This past weekend I read Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani. If you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend it. It’s been out for a while now and I’ve been meaning to read it and then it was given to me with a stack of second hand books.
If you don’t know her story, Anita had a near death experience (NDE) after suffering with lymphoma (cancer in the lymph nodes) for 4 years. She was in a coma and her family was told she only had a few hours left as her organs were failing. She describes being able to see everything at once and being a part of a tapestry of consciousness – one in which we are all not only connected to one another, but are of one consciousness.
After her NDE, Moorjani became cancer free, much to the shock of her doctors. After a mere 5 weeks from being on death’s doorstep, she was allowed to leave the hospital.
In the below Ted Talk, as in her book, she talks about the lessons she took away from this experience. One of them is to live fearlessly. She describes how she was fearful of cancer, of dying, of displeasing others, and then some. She also talks about the fears we often grow up with and how they are meant to keep us safe. These fears do the opposite according to Moorjani. It is love, not fear, she says, that keeps us safe.
I was considering how fear portrays itself in my own life. Most predominant is my fear around losing control of my life. As I ponder the possibilities around kidney disease which are, according to doctors, dialysis or transplant, I fear the changes that dialysis means for me most. I look at the possibility of being in the dialysis unit of the hospital for several hours a week, with a fistula in my arm. I look at that and think I won’t be able to do a push up for risk of rupturing the fistula (and does that mean no yoga?); I look at the possibility that I need to completely give up teaching yoga and practicing Thai yoga massage for 2 reasons – I’ll need to devote my free time to my day job and this fistula will be in my way. And then there’s the energy levels. I fear I’ll need to use all my energy just to get through my work days and that life will take on a trudging quality. I’ll just be working, doing dialysis and sleeping. Not much joy there.
But… this is just one possible outcome. What are the other possibilities? Transplant. Having a period of healing after a surgery and then, assuming no complications, go back to life as I know it. Or maybe one possibility is healing. Now, I have to say, I focused a lot of my attention over the past 20 years on healing. I believed strongly that I could heal myself. But then the evidence was there that it wasn’t happening. And I gave up. That’s when the fear hit me. Fear of what was to come. And suddenly my attention was put on that – what would happen next.
Nothing is written in stone. That’s the thing about this particular fear. There are a number of possible outcomes – probably ones I haven’t even considered. And when I allow whatever outcome is right for me who knows what will happen? Maybe I’ll end up on dialysis, maybe I won’t. one of the other lessons that came from this book was to recognize that challenges in life are a gift. I think many of us have heard this before – that there are always lessons to be learned from life’s challenges. But Moorjani takes it a step beyond. She says that if you can’t see the gift yet, then it’s not the end. After all, for her, cancer was a gift in the end.
As hard as it might feel at times, I need to keep coming back to the present and keep open to all possibilities – even the ones I can’t possibly be aware of.